Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rediscovering the Photograph: Dancing Mushrooms and Poppies, Baby Spiders and Magnifying Glasses

I know this about myself.  Maybe you're the same way.  I am very intensely obsessed with something until the next wonderful thing comes along.  I have not been writing lately because I have been rediscovering photography.   I've always avoided moving to the next level in that realm because I'm intimidated by the techy mumbo jumbo you have to learn.  Usually, I feel I must have a purpose when I do something.  Images documenting family events, outings and kids growing all play important family history roles.  My writing helps me to think things through, and thus makes me a happy mom and wife.  Extra photo taking didn't seem to fit anywhere.

Shortly after we visited  the tulip fields this year, I decided I had no choice but to learn more.  I had become frustrated with myself, knowing the images could have been better.  I am drawn to beauty, like a bumblebee to a blossom, and I know it when I see it.  What I had been creating in images captured only just a glimmer of the wonder around me.

Therefore, it was commitment time.  Instead of being embarrassed to ask questions, I read a little so I could know what to ask.  The camera manuals were unearthed and made for some sleepy bed time reading.  I learned important things, especially that you should be careful not to poke yourself in the eye when adjusting the viewfinder.  I also learned things that actually helped me, like how to set spot metering, so the thing you're focusing on has the best lighting.  And mainly, I played.

Since last November, I've been shooting in RAW format.  The image sensor in the camera records all the data, instead of just hanging onto certain parts, as in a JPG format.  Even though I was just using Picasa for simple editing, I could see a big difference in the control this gave me over my images.  In April, at the Tulips, I decided I needed to make photos in manual mode, so that i could really learn how all the controls work.  You get to control how long the shutter stays open, or how wide it is to let in the light, or what speed of virtual film you're using.  It's all about learning how to bend the light that's always bouncing off of everything.  This way, what you see with your God-designed perfect lenses, (your eyes), will be clearly translated into a photographic image.

I have been thinking about the word "photograph"and its roots, because we've been studying the Latin and Greek English root words all year.  "Photos" means light, and "graph" means to write or to draw.  When you are composing a photograph, you are coaxing the light into drawing an image of what you see.  I have been very interested in getting extra close to the objects I'm capturing because I want to portray this concept.  When you keep a very shallow depth of field, by leaving your aperture wide open, the surrounding areas become very painterly.  I have purchased some inexpensive close-up filters that are essentially little magnifying glasses.  They allow you to see more clearly the world right in your flower beds, while changing it just enough to allow a sense of mystery.

To be able to create beautiful art in this way is very meaningful to me as a busy mother and wife, and I have discovered that photography has grown a new and important purpose in my life.  It is asking me to be slow and still.  It is requiring that I be patient and that I think about the world around me.  It is giving me a purpose to spend hours outside with the children, allowing them to show me things I should see.  It is fulfilling my innate need to create, but also inspiring ever greater awe for the design of the natural world.  I cannot ever fully see or understand everything in it, but photography is allowing me to understand that I can always see something new.  These new things may be plants or insects, but they might also be the bright thoughts that roll out of my childrens' minds as we explore together.  I do not doubt that this fascination will soon end, but its reminder is clear.  This is a wonderful world, and we need to notice it in whatever way inspires us best.


  1. I like the don't poke your eye you found in the manual.

  2. Great pictures! I love the 2 with the magnifying glass. It's cool that your new hobby with photography is something that you can enjoy outside with your kids.

  3. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing Angie!


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